Tuesday 16 July 2019

Ireland’s Jihadis review: Portrait of establishment which seems to believe best defence against terrorism is complacency

Four stars

Khuram Butt (inset) was the leader of the terror attack on London Bridge, which claimed the lives of eight innocent people
Khuram Butt (inset) was the leader of the terror attack on London Bridge, which claimed the lives of eight innocent people

Ed Power

The scariest thing about Ireland’s Jihadis (Virgin Media One) was that it felt like a chilling warning destined to go unnoticed until too late.

The documentary, presented by crime reporter Paul Williams, set out the degree to which fundamentalist jihadists had infiltrated Ireland – and painted an unsettling picture of Ireland’s intelligence services as ill-equipped to deal with global terrorism.

Our entry point into the jihadists’ world was “Aaliyah” (not her real name), an Irish woman whose own radicalisation occurred in deeply peculiar circumstances. She had lived through 9/11 as a child but rather than flinching from the appalling destruction found herself drawn to the the teachings of Osama bin Laden and later Isis.

This was how she had crossed paths with two of the three London Bridge attackers who mowed down eight passersby last year before being killed by police. Rachid Redouane had passed back and forth to Ireland – but gardai were of the opinion that his accomplice, Khuram Butt, had not entered the state.

That was not the belief of experts, who pointed out that, because of our open border with the UK, there was no way of tracking the movements of fundamentalists. They had only to take a flight or ferry to Belfast and travel by road to the Republic. Just as troubling was the discrepancy between the garda estimation of 30 or so radicals in Ireland and the assessment of figures within the Muslim community that the figure stood at around 150.

The relationship between Ireland and Britain was characterised by former MI5 undercover operative Aimen Dean as mutually unhealthy. Ireland’s underdeveloped security services made the country a convenient bolt-hole for extremists seeking to lay low. Conversely, the majority were radicalised in Britain in the first place – meaning we are essentially cheek-by-jowl with a terrorist production line.

There were also interviews with eye-witnesses from London Bridge and with Shaykh Umar al-Qadri, a Blanchardstown Imam who has spoken out against extremism. It added up to a disquieting portrait of a security establishment which seems to believe the best defence against terrorism is complacency.

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